This article is part of our Fitness Business Startup Guide—a curated list of articles to help you plan, start, and grow your fitness business!
If you want to own your own gym or fitness center, you’re probably trying to figure out how you’re going to bring in customers, and keep them. If so, you’re on the right track.
As you will shortly see, member retention is key to the success of a fitness center. Luckily for you, there are multiple things you can do to win over your customers.
To help you out, we’ve hacked our way through the forest of general (and generic) ideas to find you only those strategies that have been proven to boost revenue. If you’ve got a great addition, let us know on Twitter or Facebook.
1. Focus on providing epic customer service
This one almost goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway as the statistics in favor of excellent customer service are overwhelming.
According to a 2010 Customer Experience Report by Harris Interactive/Right Now, great service, delivered time and time again is even more important than competing on price. In fact, it’s defensible against the stiffest competition.
By making customer satisfaction a key performance indicator, you are much more likely to focus on implementing strategies that will foster customer loyalty, and ultimately result in additional referrals to your gym (don’t forget the importance of word of mouth referrals).
While the benefits of good customer service are all encompassing, they’re also big profit drivers—86 percent of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience.
The same is true vice versa. Provide bad customer service and you could lose big time, especially if you don’t address complaints—50 percent of consumers give a brand only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them.
So, go above and beyond and keep your members coming back with epic customer service.
2. Get people to attend the gym more often
Did you know that by increasing your customer retention rate just five percent, you can increase profits by 25 to 95 percent?
In the fitness world, it’s no secret that attendance and retention are linked. When members feel they’re not getting value out of their membership, they attend less, and over time stop attending entirely.
This is why it’s important to pay attention to your attendance numbers. If your members stop attending, you’re likely not meeting their expectations. Obviously, there could be many things at play here: there are nicer facilities elsewhere, you don’t offer the right classes, they don’t like your staff or personal trainers, and so on.
Your best bet then is to figure out why people are canceling, or attending less. A great way to do this is to encourage your front desk staff to recognize signs that someone is losing interest and get them to talk to your customers to find out why.
You could also invest in gym attendance software to automate much of your tracking.
3. Set the right hours
While your gym’s own attendance numbers are going to tell you a lot of things, when people are attending (and the number attending each day) is going to tell you a lot about the specific hours you should keep, and even the right times to offer classes.
Attendance patterns at fitness clubs vary, but broadly speaking, peak hours are 6am-8am, 12pm-2pm, and 5pm-7pm. It makes sense when you bring work into the picture—those times encompass “before work,” “lunch break,” and “after work.”
When it comes to the day of the week, attendance is usually highest on Monday, dropping steadily as the week progresses with Sunday attendance lowest of all.
As we’ve previously stated how important attendance is, the more you can find the right hours and get people to attend, the more likely they will be to stick around. In fact, according to a 2001 study by the Fitness Industry Association, the more often people attend initially, the lower the reduction in attendance.
Because attendance patterns are usually established in the first three to six months of membership, consider how you can best encourage people to keep coming back for more. You could do this by focusing on loyalty-building strategies for a time. This includes doing things like keeping members informed, creating a sense of community, and helping them save money.
4. Get creative with your marketing
Creativity is the lifeblood of good advertising.
It differentiates a company, it makes seemingly boring products or services seem much less boring, and it has the powerful ability to change how people feel about you, or the services your company offers.
One of the great things about managing a gym is that you have multiple different niches you can target. So, rather than thinking about how to market your business in general, hone in on the specifics and get creative—there are dozens of ideas out there.
For example, you might offer a “summer slimdown” Facebook promotion, or a membership anniversary special, a corporate challenge, a free training day, meal ideas by email, a weight loss challenge and so on. The possibilities are endless.
Remember, your advertising is all about communicating the right message. So, don’t go getting caught up in out-there creative ideas if they’re not relevant.
5. Diversify your revenue streams
A great way to spread your risk and increase revenue is to have multiple profit centers—that is, multiple ways to bring in revenue. Why rely on gym memberships alone when other areas could pad your budget?
An additional benefit to multiple profit centers—according to Mike Feinman, Executive Vice President and COO of Gold’s Gym—is that these other revenue streams add value to your membership and often enhance results for those who enjoy them.
Of course, you have to do it right or it may well have the opposite effect and decrease your profits.
As you think about adding additional profit centers to the mix, consider what your customers are asking for. Better yet, survey them (and follow these rules recommended by Help Scout’s Gregory Ciotti).
Today, fitness centers offer everything from tanning and personal training, through group fitness, juice bars, massage, and merchandise. In fact, many gyms or fitness centers will even work with local businesses, building partnerships that refer business. If you’d like to broaden your reach or raise awareness but don’t have the extra cash to invest in a juice bar, consider taking this route.
If you do diversify your revenue stream, one of the first things you will need to ensure you have in place is an excellent sales team or at least front desk staff who have been trained on how to upsell your other services. After all, if these new services are not front and center in your marketing or gym, how will your members know they even exist?
Beyond these five pointers, stay abreast of the latest fitness industry trends. This isn’t a revenue-driving strategy per se, but it is a strong recommendation. By keeping up on the latest trends, you give yourself a competitive advantage.
This doesn’t necessarily mean going out to invest in the latest machinery, but it may mean incorporating a different type of class into your group fitness offerings—like Zumba, for example.
In fact, you wouldn’t believe some of the crazy things that have become popular in this industry of late. Paddleboard yoga, anyone?